Question

How do you compare Obsidian and Roam Research? What are their best features?

I have signed up for Roam Research (ages ago, no waiting list at the time), but I didn't like the fact that it was online only.
Recently, I downloaded Obsidian (Obsidian.md), and I think Obsidian is going to be superior to Roam Research.
Since there's not a mobile version yet, I'm using it alongside iA Writer and the experience has been great so far. I'm learning Zettelkasten method of taking notes (reading Sönke Ahrens' book How to take smart notes, possibly the best resource for that method) and I'm using Obsidian to implement.
I'd like to see your thoughts about those two products: Obsidian and Roam Research.

Mentioned
#Roam Research #Notes #Knowledge Base #Writing #Database #around #Capiche
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gianthobbit's avatar
2 months ago

I love both but my time is mostly spent in Roam. Here is why.

The notion of Zettlekasten to me relies on two basic principles. Connection and atomic notes.

I like how Roam treats both tags and links the same. This removes an important decision factor and I love how it's really just context in the bullet on how it looks vs a different way to organize things. I think this leads to more frequent linking due to lack of confusion - for me anyways.

Most important however is that the bullet - not the page - is the most atomic element in Roam. This further removes friction and decision. I think this is why people feel so free in Roam. There is very little decisions to make as long as you properly link things as you write.

Obsidian is new and will get better. Roam is pretty rough and even despite CSS - ugly. I expect both to get better but for now will invest in Roam.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @gianthobbit )
2 months ago

Great point on the bullet not the page being the important thing in Roam. While I was writing up my answer to this question before, the outline-style features of Roam and being able to move any bullet point around felt like the biggest differentiator. I've always enjoyed using outline apps, including WorkFlowy and OmniOutliner in the past, and so find that helpful in Roam for outlines and notes (albeit that same feature makes me more likely to do planning and research in Roam, then write the longform finished piece in another writing app like iA Writer or Ulysses).

Do you find yourself embedding sections from one note into another in Roam much?

1 point
brandonwentland's avatar
@brandonwentland (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

Not a lot but I think that is because this feature does not exist in other apps. Building that muscle.

It is just another way to connect thoughts in a different but useful fashion.

1 point
maguay's avatar
2 months ago

The core idea is similar, in building a set of linked notes as almost a personal wiki.

Obsidian is essentially a graph database built around a set of Markdown files, on your local computer. It's more like a Markdown writing app designed to let you link notes and see how they're connected. It feels more like a standard text editor, with paragraphs of text that stay in place unless you cut and paste them elsewhere. You can add wiki links, for instance, but clicking them won't open the link—instead, you need to CMD+click to open the link. And it doesn't automatically create new notes for new Wiki links—instead, it shows them on the graph, and you can double-click a node on the graph to create that new note. It does have more note taking features, though, like date settings, audio recording, and print previews to see your formatted text, as well as desktop software features like custom keyboard shortcuts.

Roam Research, instead, is a web app, and as such is web-first. There's less concept of files, more of linked text. Create a wiki link and click it to open it; create a wiki link that doesn't exist yet and it's automatically created as a new note. It's an outline, not a standard text editor, so every line is a new bullet point that can be moved around in the page or indented. You can also reference and embed any bullet point to build notes from sections of other notes. And it has mini apps built-in to expand your notes to include timers, kanban boards, and more.

Both could be used for similar purposes, and it's awesome to have two tool that are both pushing forward wiki-style linked notes. The core differences are in styles; do you want something more like a longform writing app that runs locally, or an outline styled tool that lets you remix text?

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

Then, some other people in the Capiche community are using Obsidian, so be sure to check these discussions for their thoughts:

2 points
anartam's avatar
@anartam (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

Thank you! I'll take a look.

1 point
omnotion's avatar
@omnotion (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

Just to clarify, the cmd click to open wiki links is when in editing mode. In preview mode you can just click to open wiki link.

1 point
chowdhuryrahul's avatar

The major plus point of Obsidian for me is local MD files. I don't have to rely on the product's cloud storage service and deal with privacy problems.

I have my files locally, and I can sync them on my preferred cloud storage service, be it iCloud or Dropbox.

No vendor lock-ins. 👏

1 point
Thirstylizard's avatar

I think Obsidian has great potential. For me it is the poor man's version of Roam Research. I must admit that I am a novice in using this sort of tools and still learning Markdown Language (note: I am not a coder or programmer, but someone trying to find an effective tool for complex research and note taking. I can generalize this as knowledge management. I guess what I need is a combination of mindmap and hyperlink tool to identification complex and obscure correlation.

One use case I am going to use Obsidian is for learning bible from a non religious approach

Does this make sense to anyone?

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Thirstylizard )
19h

Yup sounds about right—I think both price and having native apps are the main draws to Obsidian right now.

If you're new to Markdown, Capiche's Markdown guide might be helpful—and you can use Markdown to format your posts here, too!

1 point
Thirstylizard's avatar
@Thirstylizard (replying to @maguay )
19h

thanks @maguay, I just open the link. Just a comment / question, seems most developers / site owners have some minor variations on the use of Markdown language ?

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Thirstylizard )
17h

You're right—quite a few sites use their own varients of Markdown. Slack, for instances, uses something closer to Textile than Markdown (where underscores make text italics and asterisks make it bold). For the most part though the basics work the same most places.

This is the official Markdown documentation from its inventor: http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/syntax

1 point
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